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How to Clean and Maintain Skateboard Bearings

Arun Prabhu
Skateboard bearings need to be cleaned whenever you feel a drag on the wheels or when you think you're not going as fast as you used to. The intervals between the times you clean the bearings decides how long your skateboard bearings last.
Maintaining bearings of any kind is a pain, skateboard bearings included. Getting good bearings and keeping them clean is just as good (and important) as getting the right skateboard. There are essentially three ways of cleaning the bearings, depending on when was the last time you cleaned them and how much time you have on your hands.

Methods to Clean and Maintain Skateboard Bearings

Method I ~ Quick, Easy and Less Efficient

You'll Need
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Spray lubricant
Cleaning Procedure
  • Remove the wheel, keep the bearing in place, don't remove it from the wheel.
  • Place it on a dry rag or paper towel.
  • Spray the bearing with the lubricant. The spray must be strong enough to hit the bearing and clean off all the muck.
  • Pat the wheel with a new towel and keep it on the towel to dry a little.
  • Place the wheel back on the skateboard.
  • This method hardly qualifies as a proper cleaning method, but if you're hard-pressed for time and you really don't like the way your wheels are rolling, you can clean them like this.

Method II ~ Slower, Moderate and Efficient

You'll Need
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Spray lubricant
  • Socket wrench of the proper size
Cleaning Procedure
  • Here, you need to remove the bearing out of the wheel. The most important thing to take care of here is the bearing shield.
Do not mishandle the shield, damaging it makes your bearing next to useless and you'll have to replace them. You'll also have to take care of the washer if you use them.
  • Once you've removed the bearing out, place it on the towel.
  • Use the spray lubricant to clean out the dirt in the bearings. It'll be the same as the above method, but you'll get more surface to spray on and you'll get a cleaner bearing. Remember, the cleaner the bearing stays, the longer is its usability.
  • Place the bearing out on a different towel to dry.
  • Repeat the procedure for all eight bearings.
  • When you place the bearings back into the wheels, keep the rubber shield of the bearing on the outside.
  • Fit each bearing on the wheels with your finger. Push them in as tight as possible. Place the wheel on the axle and top it with the lock nut. Using the wrench, slowly screw the nut in. This nut will push the bearing inwards along with it. The keyword here being 'slowly', you don't want to damage the bearings.

Method III ~ Slowest, Toughest and Most Efficient

You'll Need
  • Rags or towels
  • Two clean bowls or cans
  • Socket wrench
  • Coffee filter
  • Acetone, kerosene or mineral spirits
  • Lubricant cream (I suggest rocket propellant)
Cleaning Procedure
  • Take out the bearings and put them in the bowl or can.
In this method, you should preferably take off the shields. But do this very carefully from the edges, the shield should not get damaged. This is why the method takes so much work.
  • Pour the solvent fluid on top of the bearings.
  • Swirl the stuff gently so that the loose dirt comes off, exposing more dirt.
  • Once the bearings are clean, take them out and dip them in the second bowl filled with the solvent.
  • Take them out and dry them properly. You may use compressed air cans for this.
  • Use the lube cream and replace the bearing in the wheel as described above.
  • Take the filter and place it over the solvent container. Pour the contents into the container. The filter catches all that bearing dirt, leaving a clean solvent in the container, completely reusable!
As a word of caution, I recommend you to use a good quality spray lube, the cheaper ones actually make the bearings dirty faster by making the dirt stick to it. Good bearings are the essence of a good run. Having them clean along with friction free bearings completes the skateboard and ensures a smooth sail.